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María DeCastro Blake 
Community Service Award
2007 Honoree

Hilda Hidalgo, PhD
Professor Emerita in Public Administration, Rutgers University

Hilda Hidalgo, a native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, a woman, a lesbian, a professor, and one of the greatest persons I have had the privilege to know, spent more than three decades working tirelessly to improve the lives of others in New Jersey. She began her career in Newark as District Director of the Girl Scout Council of Greater Essex in 1960, where she spent five years, and then another five as Director of Child Services. Hilda taught at Rutgers University for 23 years, first in the School of Social Work in New Brunswick and then in the Public Administration Department at Rutgers Newark. Her last job (1994-95) before fully retiring from paid employment was Assistant Commissioner of Education for the State of New Jersey.

But while Hilda’s career has been impressive, what distinguishes her most in our eyes is her concern for others and her record of civic works. During her years in Newark, Hilda co-founded and presided over Aspira of New Jersey, La Casa de Don Pedro and the Puerto Rican Congress, three institutions that have in turn shaped and/or touched the lives of thousands of individuals in New Jersey. In addition to these organizations, Hilda was co-founder and Board member of the United Community Foundation, Newark Urban League and United Community Corporation. She also chaired the 1st Puerto Rican Convention of NJ and served as Vice-President of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

As a Rutgers professor, Hilda created a Masters Program in Public Administration in order to help Hispanic professionals to obtain a graduate degree while continuing to work full-time. Many of that program’s graduates have gone on to touch many lives as well. Like Hilda, they subscribe to Marian Wright Edelman’s philosophy, which holds that "material gifts bring with them the privilege and responsibility of sharing with the less fortunate..."

Committed to a life of purpose, Hilda is at present an active member of Equality Florida and Friends of Wild Iris, organizations that fight for the rights of Gays and Lesbians. When asked why she is still volunteering, she replied: "because my strength comes from my association with others who share my passion and commitment to eradicate the oppression of others because of their race, ethnicity, class or sexual orientation."

Prepared by Olga J. Wagenheim


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